Hello, I’m Kortney, and I’m a recovering perfectionist.
I spent the greater part of my life believing that unless something was perfect, it wasn’t good at all. There was really no in-between. It was either perfect, which meant it was good, or it was a failure, which, obviously meant it was bad.
One of the problems with perfectionism is that it’s common to believe that it’s a positive thing. In our society, people tend to value it. If you’re someone that aims for perfection, you must be accomplished. Smart, even.
Have you ever had a sense of pride over being called a perfectionist?
I’m raising my hand over here. Wildly.
So, what is a perfectionist? How do you know if you are one? If perfectionism is ruling your life, what’s the secret to throwing it in the backseat (or the trunk!)?
Let’s start with what a perfectionist is and how you know if you are one.
1. You Obsess Over Your Mistakes
You screwed up. So what? Mistakes are part of life. But perfectionists can’t stop thinking about what you did “wrong”. You worry that you didn’t do enough or you looked stupid.
It’s worth saying that what you did “wrong” is YOUR definition of wrong. Chances are, no one else is thinking that you screwed up. And even if they are, that’s life. Failure is part of it. It’s healthy and it helps you grow and learn.
2. Your Self-Confidence Depends on Being Perfect
There is a difference between healthy striving and striving for perfection. When you don’t reach what you deem to be perfection (which is likely a lot higher standard than what anyone else is holding you to), you feel like this says something bad about you. You feel shame, and that shame makes you feel like a flawed human. You hinge all of your self-worth on doing everything perfectly, or the external validation you get from achieving.
3. Your Thinking is All-or-Nothing
Life is all about the gray areas, but they don’t exist for perfectionists. You’ve either succeeded because you’ve achieved perfection, or you’ve failed, which is everything else. Perfectionists have a hard time accepting anything other than perfect. Average, good enough or acceptable are, well… just not acceptable.
4. You Have Unrealistic Expectations
Perfectionists set extremely high standards for themselves. Even their idea of perfect is skewed. They are skilled at completely beating themselves up when they don’t meet their unrealistic expectations, which is frequent, since the expectations are, well… unrealistic.
5. You Put Up a Front
Perfectionists are intensely afraid of being judged for not having all of their shit together, so they put up a front and insist or project that everything is perfect, even when it isn’t. They know it, but they don’t want anyone else to know it!
6. Despite Your Constant Quest for Perfection, You Don’t Feel Even Close to Perfect
Perfectionists are never satisfied with themselves. They strive to be amazing performers – the smartest, the best, the excellent. But nothing is ever good enough for them. They never feel like they are good enough. They criticize everything they do and also have a really hard time accepting compliments.
Watch out this interesting video to know why perfectionism holds us back.
7. You Have a Hard Time Accepting 2nd Best
Perfectionists tend to be extremely competitive humans. Much of the time they come in first, but when they don’t, they have a really hard time accepting when someone else has outperformed them. You guessed it… they feel like a failure if they aren’t the best.
8. You Feel Relieved When Someone Else Fails
This sounds so awful, but perfectionists tend to feel relieved when they see someone else make a mistake. They don’t wish for someone to fail, but it just takes the pressure off of them, almost like the bar that they’ve outperformed hasn’t been raised.